Napoli needed a big win on Friday and they got exactly that, humiliating Inter Milan in a very one-sided match that had a final score of 3-0 that could have been a much, much wider gap.
The match started absolutely explosively, with Napoli flying forward with reckless abandon — a reckless abandon that caught Inter Milan utterly unprepared and off balance. That lead to two massive early goals for Napoli, with Piotr ZIelinski hammering one home in just the second minute, with Marek Hamsik adding another to finish a silky move in the fifth minute.
That start seemed to catch Inter utterly off guard, with their defense unable to cope with the sheer volume of bodies coming forward and the way they were able to ping the ball around in the box. Napoli took a minor breather after going up 2-0 to set themselves up a little more traditionally, but still were able to keep up the pressure when they had the ball — though Inter’s forays forward started getting more frequent, and even dangerous at times.
That danger came largely from the defense falling asleep at times, with Elseid Hysaj in particular being a culprit in that area, with Raul Albiol having issues from time to time as well. Hysaj’s struggles can be partly explained by an injury in training that had him somewhat in doubt for this match, one that he seemed to aggravate in the second half, leading to his eventual substitution.
Before that substitution, though, the result of the game was put beyond any doubt, with Lorenzo Insigne scoring at the end of a sequence of corner kicks, thanks to a scuffed back-heel shot that caught Samir Handanovic wrong-footed and nestled into the far corner. That would be Insigne’s final action of the match, stepping off the pitch just before the hour mark to rest up ahead of next week’s Champions League clash at Benfica.
Marek Hamsik eventually earned a rest as well, but that was perhaps the least notable part of the captain’s substitution. That’s because we finally saw the debut of Marko Rog, the young Croatian who came in to so much summer acclaim, but had yet to step foot on the pitch. The young midfielder acquitted himself well, with a few nice moments on and off the ball, including a couple of solid defensive moments. Hopefully we see a lot more of him in the future, because he can bring quite a big to the team if given a chance.
On a whole, this was the best performance from Napoli that we’ve seen in a long, long time, at least since the injury to Arkadiusz Milik threw everything for a loop. It certainly helped that Inter were quite dreadful for much of the match, but the fact that Napoli took advantage of that as well as they did is a big step up from recent days when they haven’t taken advantage of opponents’ weaknesses.
It’s a good sign that Napoli are finally moving in the right direction again after two months of sliding backwards. Hopefully they can take this match and use it to propel themselves to success against Benfica on Tuesday.
On to the next.
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj (Maggio 61’), Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski, Diawara, Hamsik (Rog 76’); Callejon, Gabbiadini, Insigne (Giaccherini 58’)
Goals: Zielinski (2’), Hamsik (5’), Insigne (51’)
Inter Milan: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Miranda, Ansaldi; Kondogbia (João Mário (56’), Brozovic; Candreva (Palacio 76’), Banega (Eder 46’), Perisic; Icardi